Hello! I’m Jesse Michelsen. Some of you may know me, but most probably don’t so here is who I am. I’m one of Crystal’s business partners. I manage the technical side of the sites that we buy together and manage BFS technical state as well. However, I have many ventures outside of blogging. The one relevant to why I’m writing here today is being the CTO (Chief Technical Officer) of a tech/social media start-up called Manteresting.
Before you grab your torch and pitchforks ladies, let me explain what and more importantly, why, Manteresting is. I know Crystal’s audience, I’ve been around here long enough to know many of you by your comments or replies to the newsletter which I ran with Crystal for its first year. I know many of you use Pinterest and the thought of a male-based Pinterest site may sound absurd, uncreative and just plain offensive. Well, here’s how it got started.
(I’m not a male/female psychologist so this next paragraph is mostly based on my limited experience with the more elegant sex but being part of Manteresting and analyzing Pinterest to such a degree..I feel like I understand male/female behavior just a tad better than I used to. And yes, I’m married.)
Manteresting was founded in late 2011. At that time, there were only 3-4 other Pinterest-like sites out there, and Pinterest itself. Pinterest was, and still is, primarily occupied by women. The reason behind that? Most likely because men and women are different, they don’t interact the same and Pinterest’s “Invite Only” system catered to the way women do things. Women like talking about and sharing things more than men in general, or rather in a different way. Most men, when they find something cool will send a tweet/email about it but they don’t feel the need to Facebook invite their entire friend list over to check it out. But ladies, you love to share! From Tupperware parties to recipe swaps, girls love to get together and share things with each other and show off their creativity. That’s great, and Pinterest was the perfect platform to do that. It was inevitable that when the system was created invite-only, women would invite all their girlfriends and men would join and leave, browse from time to time or ignore the invite altogether (as Jerry Seinfeld would say, men hunt and women nest). The last figures from Pinterest in the US being 80% women support this theory.
So, while there were a few other Pinterest-like sites, none were catering to the male market. My partner gets credit for the idea, we founded the company and started development a couple months later. By February 2012 we launched Manteresting and saw an explosion of growth from our second week.
We were right, men did want to use Pinterest but because it was dominated by women from early on, pins containing anything relevant to men were few and far between. Some men tried to start Pinterest-for-men boards on Pinterest, but they were quickly drowned in wedding dresses and cute ways to arrange cupcakes…not that there’s anything wrong with that! It was just obvious there was a demand for a more masculine Pinterest, even a more general Pinterest. (We have similar numbers in regards to women users that Pinterest has of men users!)
We made the system open to anyone, no invites, created a rough, utilitarian design (some
might have called it ugly) and spent our days and nights trying to keep up with the traffic that quickly crippled every hosting upgrade we could throw at it.
Before we knew it, we blew through our 12month goal of reaching 10,000 users, by our 4th month. By our sixth, we had another 4,000 users.
Last week, we relaunched Manteresting with a more polished, more user-friendly design, better work-flow throughout the site, and a handful of frequently requested features.
So why am I here? To tell you all about the mistakes we made, of course. The mistakes that are financially relevant in any project be it entrepreneurial or around the house.
Be all in (‘cos haters gonna hate)
We started this project with big dreams. We both had doubts, me more than my partner, about whether this would take off at all. We didn’t anticipate the reaction by others, negative or positive, and that was kind of stupid. We quickly realized we didn’t put all our chips on the table, even though our early users did. They were promoting Manteresting harder than we were, giving us awesome suggestions on improvement and were more accepting of our growth hiccups than we were at times.
We also let critics knock us down. We had criticism of every aspect of Manteresting from the design to the idea to attacks on us personally. We let them get to us and it hurt our ability to keep hold and push toward our dream.
Pace yourself and set markers along the way
Yes, be all in. If you really believe in something, hold onto that belief. However, set goals and pace yourself, no matter what the dream. If you really want to go at things at full speed, make a time-line of where you need to be and what goals you need to reach along the way, for each step in the process, then set your final goal based on that time-line. This goes especially well with finance. I’ve been in debt before and tried to rush the process of paying it off. My family and I set unreachable goals and were disappointed because we were only looking at the end result and not what it takes to get there.
That’s how early development of Manteresting was. We set ourselves up to fail. We set unreachable deadlines on development and were upset when they weren’t reached. We launched on our proposed launch date even though we weren’t fully developed, didn’t have the features we set out to have, didn’t have adequate hosting, hadn’t load tested and really had no idea what launch would be like till it happened
By not pacing ourselves, both my partner and I burned out only two months into the project. We were working 70+hours a week trying to build out the features we had planned, fix bugs we should have found before launch and deal with crashing servers that couldn’t bear the weight.
Don’t be a superman
After launch we quickly learned that while we wanted to maintain costs and do everything ourselves, we couldn’t handle the workload of the site. We hired in contractors to help out and it was one of the best moves we’ve made. At the peak of development we had six contractors helping out in different areas of development. They were all part time and found through Odesk.com. It was really tough to shell out cash for things we knew we could do ourselves (especially for two financial bloggers!) but at the same time, we were already feeling the early stages of burnout and our wives were getting pretty pissed at us for seeing each other more than them.
Moral of the story, even though you can do it yourself, there comes a time when you probably shouldn’t. If you struggle with certain aspects of your finances be it taxes or retirement planning, stop doing those things and have someone else take over. Budgeting in the fun stuff may be about spending on things you enjoy, but sometimes, I budget out the crappy stuff. I budget to pay someone to do the crap I hate to do, or in this case, we budgeted in development so we didn’t get punished by our wives.
Outsource things that make your life suck. Budget for that. Outsource things that take away excessively from the life you enjoy and/or want…or you’ll kill yourself trying to do it all yourself.
Learn from yourself
Experience is the best teacher so learn from your mistakes. Manteresting has been pretty successful from the get-go. We could probably pretend we’re awesome but we’re really not. We sucked at launching Manteresting the first time. We sucked in other ways launching the second time too! But you know what, we know where we made mistakes our first time through. We even recognized making a few of the same mistakes with the relaunch! But we’re learning. Some things during relaunch went really well and it was all due to taking notes on the huge mistakes we made the first go-around.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Fail fast, fail early and fail often”. It sounds like a recipe for clinic depression but nevertheless, failing is the best way to learn what you’re good at, what you’re not good at and where you can improve in whatever you’re doing!
I’ve loved being a part of Manteresting, even when I wanted to crawl under a rock rather than hear another ping from my phone indicating a server had crashed. I’ve enjoyed learning a little bit more about men and women, how we differ, how we are similar and how we interact with each other. I also appreciate being able to learn more about myself, about my limits and the many, many ways in which I can improve.
I hope the insight into our little project has been entertaining. I’d love to hear of some of your own projects and if you experienced similar problems or lessons along the way. Please share your thoughts in the comnents!
Crystal’s Comments: I have one word of caution about Manteresting…it’s addictive and neverending. So only visit when you have time to kill because otherwise, you’ll be laughing to hard to move on with the rest of your day. I would love to say I’m exagerating, but I really do tune in for a little laugh and will look up 20 minutes later and wonder what the heck happened.
Have you checked out Manteresting – what do you think?